Has Apple Crossed a Line By Going After Unlocked iPhones? | Cult of Mac

Has Apple Crossed a Line By Going After Unlocked iPhones?



As has been reported widely, Apple’s iPhone Update 1.1.1 makes it again impossible to use an iPhone on any network other than AT&T and eliminates third-party applications installed through the so-called Jailbreak hack. The update, which introduces the WiFi iTunes Store to the iPhone, enables TV-out and some basic usability features, like double-tapping the home button to get to phone-call favorites.

On one level, I’m not that bugged by this behavior. After all, Apple issued a huge warning that installing the update could render unlocked phones inoperable and “might” stop third-party applications from functioning. I’m sure AT&T has been screaming at Apple to close down the unlock loophole since it hit a month ago, and Apple earns part of the revenue from iPhone service plans.

On the other hand, this is incredibly anti-consumer behavior. Most formerly unlocked iPhones now won’t even work on AT&T. They’re useless bricks (only unlocks from iPhoneSimFree can work again with AT&T). Why shouldn’t an iPhone be able to operate like an iPod Touch if, for some reason, the SIM card isn’t functioning? Why should it be a brick. People have paid good money for it. This is Apple bending over backward to please a partner notorious for ignoring consumer interests.

Worse still is the removal (they were scrubbed off of phones) of all third-party software. What possible reason does Apple have for this other than an insistence on total control? That’s as bad or worse than the mobile service carriers themselves.

Obviously, wait to upgrade if you’re unlocked to see if the hackers can stay ahead of Apple in the “cat and mouse” game that Steve Jobs described the other week. Does this bug everyone else as much as me?

Via Compiler 

34 responses to “Has Apple Crossed a Line By Going After Unlocked iPhones?”

  1. Michael says:

    In a word, yes.

  2. imajoebob says:

    Resetting the phone to require AT&T is perfectly legitimate. Part of the purchase agreement is that you will use AT&T. Perhaps if you paid an extra 250 bucks Apple would sell you an unlocked iPhone. No one complains when they get a discounted phone from Verizon after they sign a two-year contract. Maybe Apple should consider using an applet that simply shuts off the phone if it’s not activaed by AT&T?

    As for resetting all the software, that’s just stupid. Apple has no right to remove anything from your drive. They can lock out anything that affects the phone, but they shouldn’t erase any data – that’s tantamount to theft. Some people hack these for the fun of it, some hack it for illegal profits, and some do it to renege on the contract they signed. The last two get what they deserve. But if you’re activated on AT&T, and the software you add doesn’t affect the phone, then Apple needs to back off.

  3. Jeffery Simpson says:

    The only way I can use my phone in Canada is by unlocking it, and that’s what I did last week when our dollar hit parity to yours. I knew going into it though that a) I wasn’t going to be able to go to Apple for warranty work and b) any future updates would probably lock or brick the phone.

    I’m a long time Apple user, since I was six and had a Apple IIe, and I’ve had iPods since day one and the iPhone is by far my favorite thing they’ve ever created. Knowing that future updates to both iTunes and the iPhone could lock it back up I’m committing to staying with September 2007 software/hardware for the next few years until I can legitimately buy the iPhone in Canada. It sucks, but I accept that it’s the way it’s going to be unless I want to go back to using a BlackBerry (which I actually quite like just not as much).

    If the hackers keep up with Apple I can update, if they don’t then I’m just going to have to stay frozen in last week a long time.

  4. martyn says:

    Apple’s policy on the touch is worse, IMHO. Having a device with so much potential for the consumer, and locking it down to a fraction is just criminal.

    I was about to run out the door and buy one, but I’m having serious second thoughts over whether it’s really worth the dollars just to be locked into a limited selection of software.

  5. Electroboy says:

    If anything, Apple is showing itself to be just another bullying tech company. By doing a deal with AT&T they really showed who’s side they are on, and it ain’t the customers anymore. It’s sad because they have always had an image of being a company that was different from all of the other companies out there….you always felt (real or imagined) that Apple sided with the user. That doesn’t appear to be the case these days. The iPhone has changed the company in very negative way.

    Of course, Apple is perfectly within its rights to produce the sorts of products it wants to sell, but that doesn’t mean people should follow them down the route of less user control.

  6. razmaspaz says:

    Wow…if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. If you are buying a device to hack it, even for fun, you are well aware of the limitations of the device before purchasing it. Nobody is getting screwed here. If you want an iPhone that allows thrid party apps and works on other networks, then withhold your money until Apple, or someone else, makes one. As it is the terms of the contract for the iPhone stipulate using it on AT&Ts network. Apple doesn’t make products to make you happy, they make products to make money.

  7. Craig says:

    This is just another illustration of how dysfunctional the mobile phone system is here in the US. It’s my phone and I should be able to use it on any system I please. If Apple wants to charge me more for an ‘unlocked’ phone, fine.

    And if it’s part of the contract, will Apple come back when the contract expires in two years and unbreak my phone? Didn’t think so….

  8. c-man says:

    Point for point, I think everyone has a legitimate claim from a particular perspective. Yes, people are agreeing to use the iPhone under conditions as stated when they purchase one. Some remain perfectly happy to enjoy the phone as is, while others want to push it’s potential. It’s the point of potential pushing where Apple is getting hypocritical.

    The company’s standard MO is to release technology like the iPhone claiming it’s revolutionary and will change some aspect of the world by in the least permitting greater flexibility, and at most, producing a paradigm shift. Well, revolutions are inherently social because they excite the masses. The reality is Apple is actually actively frustrating creative user and developer innovation by saying “look, but don’t touch” the technical capability, and now with the iPhone update, punishing those who do. “Yeah, it might have this and the ability to do that, but we won’t let you to use it.” Why not? We paid for the thing, parts, potential and all. It’s like if the first x-ray machine developer said it’s ok to scan bones, but don’t dare use it to look into airplane airframes or suitcases. Or if a car company restricted where you could drive it. We all know it’s because Apple wants to squirt every last penny of profit out its products. Apple, gladly take our money at the cash register and then let technology like the iPhone be what it can be.

  9. Thom says:

    “Does this bug everyone else as much as me?”

    Well, no. It seems that people want to have their cake and eat it too.

    They want to unlock their iPhones, move to different call providers (taking revenue from Apple) and meddle with the iPhone software. This is fine by me – but then they run straight back to Uncle Apple for the latest software update, despite being warned not to.


  10. Andrew DK says:

    You all have to realize that most iPhone buyers – and all people, for that matter – are hopelessly ignorant about complicated technical things. Imagine the responses you would have gotten if you asked everyone in line for an iPhone if they plan on installing third-party apps on their iPhone, or even if they know what a third-party app is.

    Apple makes end products for these people because they are the majority of the population. The rest of you (us?) tech-geeks need to realize that you are a small minority and if Apple ruins your party once in a while you’re just gunna have to be a grown up and deal with it.

    As for the claim that Apple is targeting you specifically:

    “Some people hack these for the fun of it, some hack it for illegal profits, and some do it to renege on the contract they signed. The last two get what they deserve.”

    I agree with this interpretation completely. I think there’s good reasons for Apple to target the last two, but not for the first. I think you have a difficult argument to make to say that Apple targeted the first group specifically because I think I’ve made a solid argument that Apple certainly isn’t simply going to go out of its way for them.

  11. Gene says:

    The thing that makes this particularly galling is that, unlike getting a discounted phone after signing a contract, the iPhone was never discounted — owners paid the full, unsubsidized price AND were required to have a 2-year contract. The convention wisdom was that the unsubsidized nature of the purchase meant that it was to be LESS restrictive than the cheap or free phones out there. It turns out that the iPhone is MORE restricted and doesn’t even feature some of the basic functions of a free phone.
    It’s the conventional wisdom being turned on its head that really makes this situation untenable and when added to the historically consumer-friendly attitudes of Apple being suddenly thrown to the curb, well, it just becomes shocking.

  12. Michael K says:

    I purchased an iPhone and I didn’t “sign” any agreement with Apple. There is nothing on the box that resembles any agreement either. The box states…”Requirements: Minimum new two-year wireless service plan with AT&T required to activate all iPhone features…” but I don’t think that constitutes a contract, agreement, or anything other than what is found on most products as “requirements.” How many products “require” Windows or MacOS but function on other operating systems or hardware. Nothing in the warranty states the warranty is void if not signed to a two-year agreement to AT&T, either. Apple does have the right to modify its software…no doubt….and it can try to force exclusivity…..but the phone is definitely not subsidized…i.e. no rebate for activating a new AT&T subscription…and all they are doing is trying maximize profit…which is fine….but it will cost them more when they attack the consumers exercise of their legal rights.

  13. David says:

    If you bought an iPhone and did even a little bit of homework you would have known there is no 3rd party support so you shouldn’t be surprised by it. You also knew going in that the phone was locked. These are not unique experiences in the cell phone world.

    Right now the Palm Treo 680 is $199 when locked to AT&T and bought with a 2-year contract. If you want it unlocked it is $399. Why should you expect to get the AT&T contract price and be able to unlock it?

    I’m certainly not saying Apple is correct to do this, I’m just saying it’s common cell phone industry practice and it is ridiculous to be indignant about it.

    As for me, I’m sticking with the Treo until Apple opens up 3rd party development. The iPhone is beautiful and slick but can’t do all the Treo can do. I have decided this because I did my homework on the iPhone and knew I wouldn’t like it the way it is and that it would be best for me to wait. Too bad the complainers couldn’t figure that out for themselves, too.

  14. VizzyA says:

    I totally agree with the comments about Apple’s anti-consumerist behaviour, but for those who disagree just remember that it’s not so much about the hack, but the choices Apple took in terms of network providers that led to the hack.

    I think the name for this great blog “Cult of Mac” is a reflection of the loyalty and high regard that Mac users have for the company – it is a cult in a sense – where membership can be a tad expensive at times what with the new gadgets and software that they bring out and which many of us CHOOSE to buy because we’re so into what they do. I think CHOICE is the buzzword here though – and I cannot help but feel a sense of Apple’s ego getting a bit too big with their approach to marketing the iPhone – something that Mac users in particular have been eagerly anticipating because the integration between the phone and OSX is what I think we’ve all been waiting for and will use in a way that no other phone can provide for when synched with OSX.

    So taking away that choice was a bad move. However, I also fully admit my hypocrisy in that when I switch from Orange to O2 in November (when the iPhone goes on sale in the UK) I will kind of be supporting this behaviour. I had intended to try to get my phone hacked because I resent being dictated to by Apple on who will provide my mobile telephony. So the move by Apple to make iphones “permanently inoperable” after hacking puts them in a totally different light for me. After all, it wasn’t so long ago (a few months?) when they were very grateful for the creative intelligence and persistence of a “hacker” who exposed security flaws in OSX to their own advantage and offered him a job (I think!).

    So I think with the kind of hacking we’re talking about (i.e. “unlocking” technology as opposed to being malicious towards consumers through viruses etc) they should have just let it go and not stomped on the creativity of others who have my respect in how they said “this ain’t fair and so we’re gonna do something about it”. Instead, it is Apple who have been malicious towards consumers – and in a way they are responsible for the kind of hacking that we all hate – you download something off the web and it completely ruins your hardware!

    So well done Apple – you’re officially malicious hackers who threw their toys out of the pram when it didn’t go your own way! Nice move! Oh, and one other thing – the society in which we live today puts a great deal of value on CHOICE – and as a company who has such a solid and enviable brand I would have hoped that you would have understood that consumerism is also about C H O I C E . . .

    I hear that Ford have just invented a new car that will only run on petrol provided by Shell Oil… 80)

  15. Paulos says:

    I agree with some of the comments:
    Apple have clearly stated that they do not support third party apps and although it is a bit ‘cheeky’ for them to just wipe these apps i am sure they have written in the license document that this would be the case.

    As to the unlocking saga – if you have an iPhone you have also signed a contract to say that you are going to use it on the AT&T network for the first 2 years of its life. Even though you have paid toward the device it still remains partially the prorety of the cell company untill your contract expires and they (with apple’s software help) are entirly within their right to stop you from using their device on another network.

    If Apple had not made the phone exclusive this would not have happend: from a UK point of veiw they have also give it to the wrong network – O2 (the most greedy/stupid provider who would agree to Apple’s T’s and C’s) but not the best.

    When all is said and done iWant an iPhone but not on O2: what do I do? Unlock;-)

  16. Alan Sawyer says:

    There are a lot of lot of logical arguments – but this just feels wrong to me. Apple really are moving towards the anti-competitive behaviour of Microsoft. There is no reason why they should not allow you to install 3rd party apps. There is no reason why the phone has to work in order to use the other functions like any other PDA.
    I will not be buying an iPhone mainly because as far as its PDA functions are concerned my Palm TX works better. It does e-mail, videos, photos, runs excel and word (yes I do use it in horribly cramped economy class that we have here in Europe on the budget airlines – with a BT keyboard) My Palm actually supports stereo bluetooth headphones as it has the A2DP BT stack. When I want fast internet access I use a 3G network on my phone which is WAAAAY quicker than EDGE and I can make video calls (not just leave video voice mails!)
    When you add the bullying behaviour of Apple into the mix (thanks to the Faustian pact with AT&T) – yep I’m voting with my wallet and sticking with my Palm and a good 3G phone. Its stupid because had Apple not hobbled the phone with second rate technologies (garbage BT drivers and EDGE, no 3rd party apps) I would have for sure bought one for the top class and totally cool technologies like it’s screen and its integration with the Mac apps (iCal specifically)

  17. Saber says:

    Apple is right, Why?
    1. They told everyone what the Iphone was about and they all agreed and shelled out money to buy the Iphone as it was.
    2. They told everyone that the update could lock their Iphones if they had been tempred with.

    In my view it is the customer who did not know what he or she wanted in the first place. If someone say they are selling a red car and you want a blue car dont buy the red car. Common sence here is requred dont pay for what you dont want and if the manufucter in this case Apple feels the pinch they will change. Buyer beware